How Much Do Drug And Alcohol Counselors Make?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs


Providing Treatment, Support and Motivation for a Healthy, Sober Lifestyle

Do you know of someone who has struggled with addiction? If so, you're not alone. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that costs linked to abuse in the U.S., including those associated with crime, health care and lost work productivity, top $740 billion annually. Become part of the solution by exploring careers in drug and alcohol counseling.

Job Description

Drug and alcohol counselors offer treatment, support and motivation to individuals suffering from addiction and substance abuse problems. They work with patients or clients individually and in group settings, develop treatment plans and often follow up with patients after rehabilitation is completed. They may work with family members to help them cope with the recovery process. Drug and alcohol counselors also work in substance abuse education programs.

Education Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, education, licensing and certification requirements vary from state-to-state. Although some programs only require a high school diploma (or G.E.D.) and some specialized training, licensure as a drug and alcohol counselor requires a master's degree. Some practitioners earn a degree in substance abuse counseling, others may hold a master's in clinical psychology or social work. There are accredited online programs available leading to the master's degree, as well as programs in residence at many colleges and universities nationwide.

Continuing education is required for drug and alcohol counselors to maintain licensure. Academic institutions, medical centers and professional organizations offer courses; online options are also available. Requirements vary from state to state.

About the Industry

Substance abuse counselors work in a variety of facilities, including hospitals, homeless shelters, prisons, social welfare agencies, residential and outpatient facilities, halfway hours, drug and alcohol treatment centers, high schools and colleges. The majority of drug and alcohol counselors at the master's degree level, 78 percent, are women. Despite stresses associated with the work, counselors generally report a high level of job satisfaction.

Licensed practitioners may work in their own or a group private practice. Most positions are full-time. Depending on the setting, evening or weekend work may be required. Some drug and alcohol counselors may have to be on call, requiring the flexibility to respond any time of the day or night to a client in crisis. Counselors with young families should be sure they have reliable child care to accommodate long or irregular work hours.

Years of Experience

Substance abuse counselors earn, on average, $47,660 annually. Pay is highest for counselors who work in hospitals and who possess advanced degrees. Counselors who treat wealthier clients in private practice or work in high-end rehabilitation centers also earn a higher rate of pay. Counselors without degrees and those who work in residential facilities and with low-income clients tend to make the least.

Geographic location, work setting, level of education and years of experience result in a wide range of salaries. These are average ranges:

  • 0-5 years of experience: $24,646-$43,728
  • 5-10 years of experience: $28,095-$49,330
  • 10-20 years of experience: $30,220-$54,765
  • 20+ years of experience: $31,358-$61,007

Job Growth Trend

Because of the increased public awareness of drug addictions, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 23 percent growth in job opportunities during the next decade, much higher than average compared to all other occupations.